Just a Thought – The Secret Door to the Magic Palace

People who think that a theater is just a building are people who have never entered through the secret door.

The Robert Frost looks really good. The massive, year-plus makeover that cost CCUSD $26 million is evident from the red bricks to the grey steel letters spelling out the name. Walk inside, and the shine changes to a glow. The seating, the stage, the sense of a freshly polished treasure is everywhere.

Remembering the previous state of the Frost; broken chairs, ripped rugs, layers of dust so thick they were almost archeology, the transformation is terrific. There are also many, many memories of wonderful shows, dance concerts, musical performances, panel discussions and of course, the gatherings of the Academy of Visual and Performing Arts. I’ve probably attended the Frost more often than any other theater in my life, and I have been to a lot of theaters. At worst, it was still a good theater. At the newly remodeled best – Wow!

The tradition of the magic palace is about perception, and that is why you must enter through the secret door.  This is not the stage door, although it might be. The idea of theater being about the willing suspension of disbelief, the fact that you came here to get away from reality – that helps a lot. The secret door is how you come into a theater and discover a magic palace, another world.

All the curmudgeonly questions – Was it worth that much? are the same ones asked about Chabola Field. Are our children worth it? I’m guessing we think that they are. With tickets already on sale for Eric Idle, there will be plenty of people using the theater who are not being educated by CCUSD.

Wild applause to all those who imagined these changes, and to all those who will be on site, back stage and in the office, keeping the magic in motion.

The power of the theater that we will see at the Robert Frost over the coming years – can it even be measured? The way that theater changes lives is the subject of many educational studies, but even if you are just going for the anecdotal evidence, there is plenty.

It opens doors.  Magical, secret doors.

Judith Martin-Straw




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  1. Thanks for this, and most certainly privileged to have done my part in making this happen.

  2. Can’t wait to see the new Frost. As a member of the Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee I can tell you that we reviewed every invoice associated with the Frost renovation. We checked through them to make sure that the money was spent as promised on bond eligible costs. We saw the unexpected problems — mold, asbestos, steel arch fabrication difficulty — crop up and came to understand why the costs rose. We read through the inspection and fees associated with state architect design approval. We read through the hours of onsite supervision, HVAC, plumbing, electrical, air quality, painting, and other construction costs.

    Any time an older building is renovated the contractor steps into the unknown of hidden issues. Frost was a particularly unusual one due to concrete shell architecture which meant nothing of any real weight could be suspended from the ceiling, everything had to be self supporting.

    Can’t wait to see the new Frost, can’t wait to see Eric Idle on Oct. 11, can’t wait to see the new productions and performances.

  3. My kids have graduated from CCHS, but I remember pulling supplies to feed them at AVPA rehearsals from decrepit closets with broken shelving and moldy walls, going backstage behind shredded, dangling curtains, knowing which broken chairs to avoid… some situations seemed downright dangerous. This is long overdue, very exciting, and will serve the entire community for years to come. Thanks to everyone who made it happen!

  4. It is so good to see the Frost Auditorium renovation finally coming to an end and the entire community anticipating. Kudos go to all the Board members, community leaders, volunteers for the Bond campaign, all the voters who supported the Bond, all the property owners who are paying for it. Truly a testament of what can happen when we work together. Looking forward to similar success as we come to support the people and the programs in our District, by voting for Measure K!

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